Let’s not sugarcoat it. I’m a fat, sweaty, bald guy who’s going gray. I’m almost 43 years old.
While I still feel like a 17-year old inside, I’m under no illusions that I’m still a young person. I’m comfortably middle-aged.
But, when I recently lost out on a gig I thought I was perfect for because I was too old, I was shocked.
I’m too young to be too old, aren’t I?
At least one software company felt disagreed.
They contacted me to write a series of explainer video scripts for their platform. Explainer video scripts are my specialty. During our emails everything went perfectly. My prices fit their budget, they liked my philosophy, and I was excited by the promise of their new platform.
Then we spoke face-to-face over WhatsApp.
After the initial greeting the CEO blurted out, “Oh, you’re much older than we thought.”
I’ve never tried to hide my age. My profile pic shows me in all my fat, bald glory. But, the comment both stung and stupefied me.
After an awkward pause, I asked the CEO about his project. Several team members began excitedly sharing their plans.
I was trying to be gracious by pretending the CEO had never commented on my age. Perhaps, he was nervous, or maybe he is just someone who speaks his mind.
The conversation turned to my experience, and the team asked about my strategy for the scripts. I talked about related projects and shared my views.
I was sure I was about to land a lucrative contract.
Then the CEO spoke again.
“You’re really much older than I thought. Do you think you can understand what we’re doing?”
I still didn’t know if the CEO was rude, an idiot, or trying to test me. But, I knew that I didn’t want to work with him.
I asked him if the target market for his project was men between 30 and 50. He nodded and asked how I knew that. I told him I’m good at what I do and I’ve been doing it a long time. I’m in your target demographic. If you think I’m too old and dumb to get your product, you don’t understand your own target market.
Without raising my voice, I explained that I wasn’t interested in working on the project. As I moved to end the call, the CEO told me if I wanted to work in tech I should get a toupee.
Click. I ended the call.
Then I laughed, happy that I escaped having to work with that guy.
Maybe I should’ve been furious. I was just amused. Shocked, but amused.
I’m privileged. I rarely lose out on anything because of an immutable characteristic like gender, age, or race. I’m a white male. I almost always get the benefit of the doubt. I work hard, but I know I’ve benefited from my maleness and my whiteness since I was born. My job is to not abuse that privilege and to use whatever position I have to help others.
Losing out on one gig because of my age isn’t a roadblock for me. It is a reminder that life isn’t fair and that I need to try harder to clear roadblocks for others.
One of the reasons I’m self-employed is that I get to skip office politics. I get to pick who I work with. I don’t tolerate bullies.
I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing business, but getting a toupee will never be on the agenda.